Saturday, March 29, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 3: The Global System Segment 5/5
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6. The Soviet Threat

Deceit and manipulation aside, the Soviet Union has always been considered a major threat to the U.S. and its allies, and for good reason. In part this follows from its very existence as a great power controlling an imperial system that could not be incorporated within the Grand Area; in part from its occasional efforts to expand the domains of its power, as in Afghanistan, and the alleged threat of invasion of Western Europe, if not world conquest. But it is necessary to understand how broadly the concept of "defense" is construed if we wish to evaluate the assessment of Soviet crimes.

As we have seen, leading scholars consider the Western invasion of the Soviet Union to have been justified on defensive grounds because of the revolutionary intentions of the Bolsheviks (see p. 14). Thus an appeal for social change justifies aggression in self-defense, though the intellectual community does not draw the further consequence that the Soviet Union and many other states would always have been entirely justified in carrying out attacks against the United States, given its declared intention to change their social order.

Since 1917, and particularly after World War II, intervention abroad and repression at home have been cloaked in the guise of defense against the "Kremlin design for world domination" (NSC 68), a concept broad enough to include aggression by allies, once the U.S. decides to support it. John Lewis Gaddis refers blandly to "the Eisenhower administration's strategy of deterring aggression by threatening the use of nuclear weapons" in Indochina in 1954, "where French forces found themselves facing defeat" at Dienbienphu "at the hands of the Communist Viet Minh," the aggressors who attacked our French ally defending Indochina. In his history of nuclear weapons, McGeorge Bundy notes that "the first operational test of the Eisenhower administration's new policy on the use of nuclear weapons came in the climactic months of the French effort to defend against Communist insurgency in Vietnam" -- at Dienbienphu, where France was defending Indochina from its population; in Western parlance, from the Russians and their minions.21

We need not suppose that the appeal to alleged security threats is mere deceit. The authors of NSC 68 may have believed their hysterical flights of rhetoric, though some understood that the picture they were painting was "clearer than truth." In a study of attitudes of policy makers, Lars Schoultz concludes that they were sincere in their beliefs, however outlandish: for example, that Grenada -- with its population of 100,000 and influence over the world nutmeg trade -- posed such a threat to the United States that "an invasion was essential to U.S. security."22 The same may be true of those who, recalling our failure to stop Hitler in time, warned that we must not make the same mistake with Daniel Ortega, poised for world conquest. And Lyndon Johnson may have been sincere in his lament that without overwhelming force at its command, the United States would be "easy prey to any yellow dwarf with a pocket knife," defenseless against the billions of people of the world who "would sweep over the United States and take what we have." Eisenhower and Dulles may have believed that the "self-defense and self-preservation" of the United States were at stake in the face of the terrible threat posed by Guatemala in 1954 -- though it is interesting that in the secret planning record the only example cited to justify their desperate anxiety is "a strike situation" in Honduras that might "have had inspiration and support from the Guatemalan side of the Honduran border."23 The same may even be true of those who instituted and maintained a national emergency from 1985 to defend us from the "unusual and extraordinary threat" to our national security posed by Nicaragua under the Sandinistas.

In such cases, we need not conclude that we are sampling the productions of psychotics; that is most unlikely, if only because these delusional systems have an oddly systematic character and are highly functional, satisfying the requirements stipulated in the secret documentary record. Nor need we assume conscious deceit. Rather, it is only necessary to recall the ease with which people can come to believe whatever is convenient to believe, however ludicrous it may be, and the filtering process that excludes those lacking these talents from positions of state and cultural management.

In passing, we may note that while such matters may be of interest to those entranced by the personalities of leaders, for people concerned to understand the world, and perhaps to change it, they are of marginal concern at best, on a par with the importance for economists of the private fantasies of the CEO while he (or rarely she) acts to maximize profits and market share. Preoccupation with these matters of tenth-order significance is one of the many devices that serve to divert attention from the structural and institutional roots of policy, and thus to contribute to deterring the threat of democracy, which might be aroused by popular understanding of how the world works.

Insofar as one chooses to dwell on these insignificant questions, answers are highly uncertain. Thus, Schoultz may be right in supposing that policymakers were quaking in their boots in fear of Grenada. But a different conclusion is surely suggested by his discussion of the background: the immediate hostility aroused by the "progressive social programs" of the Bishop government in 1979 (meanwhile continuing the "repressive politics" that aroused great outrage in the U.S., unlike vastly worse repression by client states), and the harsh measures taken by the Carter administration, escalated by the Reaganites, to punish the criminals. Such doubts can only be enhanced by a look at the tales spun by the White House, then retailed by a new cadre of "Latin America experts" constructed by the media when the professional scholars refused to play the game: for example, that "the Cubans surely appreciate that Grenada is strategically located by the route over which about one-half of U.S. imported oil passes" (Robert Leiken), doubtless a threat before which the U.S. could only quiver in helplessness. Schoultz himself concludes that the claims of General Vernon Walters and other Administration officials about the need to protect (nonexistent) southern sea lanes were nothing more than a device to justify close relations with Pinochet and the Argentine generals, "prime examples of how a national security consideration can be employed to manipulate U.S. foreign policy debates." The same conclusion is no less plausible in a wide range of other cases, if one chooses to explore the (basically uninteresting) question of whether the doctrines that serve interest are, or are not, sincerely believed once constructed for that end.24

Throughout, we find that more intelligent elements are aware of the fraud used to beguile others and to defend oneself from unpleasant reality. As it prepared to overcome the danger of independent capitalist democracy in Guatemala, the U.S. cut off military aid and threatened attack, so that Guatemala turned to the Soviet bloc for arms, other sources having been barred by U.S. power. Guatemala City Embassy officer John Hill advised that the U.S. could now take steps to bar "movement of arms and agents to Guatemala," stopping ships in international waters "to such an extent that it will disrupt Guatemala's economy." This will in turn "encourage the Army or some other non-Communist elements to seize power," or else "the Communists will exploit the situation to extend their control," which would "justify the American community, or if they won't go along, the U.S. to take strong measures."25 We thus compel Guatemala to defend itself from our threatened attack, thereby creating a threat to our security which we exploit by destroying the Guatemalan economy so as to provoke a military coup or an actual Communist takeover which will justify our violent response -- in self-defense. Here we see the real meaning of the phrase "security threat," spelled out with some insight.

The Soviet Union has been a threat to world order when it supported anyone opposing U.S. designs: South Vietnamese engaged in "internal aggression" against their selfless American defenders; Guatemalan democrats committed to independent nationalism; or Nicaraguans illegimately defending themselves against U.S.-run terrorist forces. Such support proves that Soviet leaders are not serious about détente and cannot be trusted, commentators soberly observe. "Nicaragua will be a prime place to test the sanguine forecast that [Gorbachev] is now turning down the heat in the Third World," the Washington Post editors proposed in 1987, placing the onus for the U.S. attack against Nicaragua on the Russians while warning of the threat of this Soviet outpost to "overwhelm and terrorize" its neighbors while the U.S. stands helplessly by.26 The U.S. has "won the Cold War," from this point of view, when it is free to exercise its will in the rest of the world without Soviet interference.

The Post test of Gorbachev's seriousness was standard fare. A front-page story by Times chief diplomatic correspondent Thomas Friedman reported that the Bush administration was urging Gorbachev "to cut Soviet assistance to Nicaragua or to condition future aid on steps by Managua to make democratic reforms" -- unnecessary in neighboring countries where U.S. clients maintain power by violence. Buried at the end of his report is Washington's rejection of the Soviet offer to cut aid "if Washington cut its military assistance to its allies in the region" -- an utter absurdity, as outlandish as a (hypothetical) Soviet request that the U.S. condition its military aid to Turkey on "democratic reforms" or reduce its offensive military forces there, with missiles on alert status aimed at the Russian heartland. As Post columnist Stephen Rosenfeld helpfully explained, Gorbachev "fails to distinguish between foreign interference [on the U.S. model] intended to bestow the opportunity for choice," and, on the other hand, foreign interference of the Soviet style, "undertaken to make or sustain...a minority regime that could exist only by armed power." In predictable accord with White House dictates, he cites Nicaragua under the Sandinistas as an example of the latter, since it never permitted "a free vote" (e.g., in the 1984 elections, which did not occur in state-sanctioned history), while El Salvador, Guatemala, and other beneficiaries of U.S. intervention illustrate our fervent commitment to bestow the opportunity for choice without any resort to "armed power." Friedman later reported Secretary of State Baker's "test" of Gorbachev's "New Thinking": if the USSR will "eliminate military aid to Nicaragua and press the Sandinista Government on Central American peace, Washington will promise not to plan any military attacks against Managua and hold out the prospect of economic aid"; surely a fair and forthcoming offer, at once lauded as such by the Post editors and others.27

Jonathan Swift, where are you when we need you?

To satisfy the demands of respectable thought, Gorbachev's "New Thinking" must permit free rein for the U.S. resort to violence. The point is obvious enough. Hugh O'Shaughnessy writes in the British press that as Gorbachev has "moved closer to the Washington viewpoint" with regard to Central America, "he gave the impression that the guilty party" is Nicaragua, not "the Governments of El Salvador and Guatemala, whose political and human rights records are sickening, or the Government of Honduras, the base for the offensive against Nicaragua," all of which Gorbachev failed to criticize when visiting Cuba to exhibit his New Thinking. Similarly, "as Moscow tries to minimise causes of friction with Washington, Soviet aid to the South African liberation movements and to the front-line States appears to be faltering," and more generally, "the time when a Third World government could often benefit itself handsomely by playing off East and West against each other appears to be over."28

Such Soviet moves might be beneficial if accompanied by comparable steps in Washington, or better yet, by support for democracy and social reform and constructive aid programs geared to the real needs of the people of the Third World. These are idle dreams, however. Scarcely concealed behind a thin rhetorical cover is the fact that U.S. elites want to see the Third World turned over to Washington's whims, not liberated to pursue independent goals.

Go to the next chapter.

21 Gaddis, Long Peace, 129. Bundy, Danger and Survival (Random House, 1988), 260.

22 Schoultz, National Security and United States Policy toward Latin America (Princeton, 1987), 239ff.

23 Johnson, Congressional Record, March 15, 1948, House, 2883; Public Papers of the Presidents, 1966, Book II (Washington, 1967), 563, speech of Nov. 1. Eisenhower-Dulles, FRUS, 1952-4, vol. IV, c. 1132. Invocation of "self-defense and self-preservation" was proposed by Attorney General Herbert Brownell as providing legal justification for violating international law by intercepting ships in international waters. Memorandum of NSC discussion, May 27, 1954.

24 Schoultz, op. cit., 239f., 185-6; Leiken, cited from Foreign Policy, Spring 1981. On the defection of Latin America scholarship from the cause, see pp. 22f. Schoultz concludes that the stance of independent scholarship allowed critics "to dominate the intellectual debate over what is actually happening in Latin America," but he fails to take account of the fact that the media, including intellectual journals of opinion, compensated for the defection by creating new "experts" to replace them, so that the New York Times could present the spectrum of opinion as bounded by Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute on the right, and contra lobbyist Robert Leiken, a hitherto unknown Maoist, on the "left." See Culture of Terrorism, 205 and note 8; and that book, Manufacturing Consent, and Necessary Illusions on the success of this strategy in controlling the spectrum of articulate opinion and news reporting in the mainstream.

25 Bryce Wood, The Dismantling of the Good Neighbor Policy (U. of Texas, 1985), 177.

26 WP Weekly, Dec. 28, 1987.

27 Friedman, NYT, March 30, May 9; Rosenfeld, WP, April 7; editorial, WP, May 2, 1989.

28 London Observer, April 23, 1989. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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